UPDATED! Ford's not pleased with the Chevy truck super bowl ad that implies Ford trucks aren't built tough enough to survive the Mayan apocalypse. How upset are they? They're so pissed the automaker's sent letters to both GM and NBC asking them to pull the ad from tonight's big game.
Well, shoot, this may be more fun than the Super Bowl itself.
We knew that the folks at Ford weren't happy with the "2012" Super Bowl ad on Friday when it was released, but sending a cease-and-desist right before the $7 million spot airs is an interesting maneuver.
In another twist, Motoramic reports that Ford is pressuring NBC not to air it.
We're still trying to sort out what's true, but so far all we can tell is that GM's having a great time at Ford's expense.
"We stand by our claims in the commercial, that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup on the road," said GM Global Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick in a press release. "We can wait until the world ends, and if we need to, we will apologize. In the meantime, people who are really worried about the Mayan calendar coming true should buy a Silverado right away."
Expect an update when we learn more.
UPDATE (2:07 PM EST): Ford Trucks head spokesperson Mike Levine told us moments ago that yes, a letter was sent by Ford. And here's why:
"We don't agree with GM's claims in the ad. Particularly around durability. What's important is that Ford is proud to be the number one selling truck in America for 35 years. The best-selling vehicle in America for 30 years. And the only brand with more trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles. That demonstrates just how durable our trucks are in the real world."
"The issue with the ad is that 'Dave' doesn't survive because he's driving a Ford. They cite R.L. Polk data on longevity — not durability. If you look at R.L. Polk's data on durability — the same data I just gave you — there are more Ford trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles."
"We've made our point and we'll always defend our products."
"But this type of a request happens from time-to-time, and now we'll just let our legal team handle it."
UPDATE (4:45 PM EST): Here's the text of the Ford letter:
Dear Mr. Williams:
It is my understanding that Chevrolet intends to run a commercial during tomorrow's Super Bowl that makes false and misleading claims regarding the durability and safety of the Chevy Silverado and disparages Ford's pickup trucks. I write to demand that you refrain from running this commercial.
The commercial at issue, entitled "Chevy Silverado '2012'" (see
), features a Chevy Silverado owner driving through the rubble of a post-apocalyptic city as Barry Manilow's "Looks Like We Made It" plays in the background. Upon meeting up with a group of fellow survivors, all of whom are driving Silverados, the driver asks about the whereabouts of his friend "Dave." With great solemnity, one of the survivors reveals that Dave did not survive the apocalypse because: "Dave didn't drive the longest-lasting, most dependable truck on the road... Dave drove a Ford."
Chevrolet's "longest lasting, most dependable" claim is, to the extent it is legitimate, based entirely on longevity (as measured by full-size pickup registrations from 1981 to July 2011). However, the commercial, from its use of "Looks Like We Made It" to its reference to Dave's tragic demise, communicates something very different - that the Silverado is safer and more durable than any Ford pickup truck. These two messages are entirely unsupported. With respect to durability, research from R. L. Polk & Co. shows that Ford has considerably more trucks on the road with over 250,000 miles than does Chevrolet, thereby demonstrating that Ford's trucks are more durable than those manufactured by Chevrolet. As to the issue of safety, the 2012 Ford F-150 is an IIHS Top Safety pick, whereas the 2012 Chevy Silverado is not - having received less than impressive results in the IIHS side impact, rear crash and rollover tests. In light of the foregoing, Chevrolet has no basis to imply that the Silverado is either safer or more durable than Ford's pickup trucks, yet that false claim is precisely what is conveyed to the consumer.
In addition to making false and misleading claims regarding the comparative safety and durability of the Silverado, Chevrolet's commercial also unfairly denigrates Ford's pickup trucks. By specifically calling out Ford in its commercial, Chevrolet creates the disparaging impression that Ford owners are at risk because their pickup trucks are less safe and less durable than Chevrolet's pickups. It is black letter advertising law that "expressly or implicitly disparaging claims can damage a product's market share and, therefore,  such claims [must be] truthful, accurate and narrowly drawn." See The Procter & Gamble Co. (Swiffer Dusters), NAD Case #4226 (9/14/04). As noted above, Chevrolet's claims are neither truthful nor accurate. Thus, Chevrolet has absolutely no basis to disparagingly imply that, in the event of a catastrophic event, Ford's pickup trucks and their respective owners will be reduced to ashes.
Accordingly, Ford demands that Chevrolet immediately cease and desist from making any unsubstantiated and disparaging claims regarding Ford's pickup trucks. Specifically, Ford insists that Chevrolet (i) refrain from running the commercial during tomorrow's Super Bowl; (ii) refrain from any future use of the commercial; and (iii) permanently remove the commercial from its website, its YouTube and Facebook pages and any other Internet sites. If Chevrolet does not comply with the above terms prior to the start of the Super Bowl, then Ford will take all appropriate steps to enforce and protect its reputation.
This letter is written without prejudice to and will not be deemed a waiver of any of Ford's rights, remedies or defenses, all of which expressly are preserved.
Lynne M. Matuszak